Culture clashing in Queens
Shooting on authentic locations and working with non-professional actors, writer-director Ramin Bahrani makes films about those surviving on the margins of American society. In his debut feature Man Push Cart his protagonist was a Pakistani street vendor in New York, and in the follow-up Chop Shop it was a Dominican orphan doing odd jobs in a car repair shop in Queens. For Goodbye Solo Bahrani returns to his hometown of Winston-Salem in North Carolina and, by beginning with a conversation in a taxi, he swiftly establishes the film’s most important relationship.
The passenger William (former Elvis bodyguard Red West), an elderly white Southerner, has an unusual request for the friendly Senegalese driver Solo (Souleymane).
Rest assured that Goodbye Solo isn’t a drama in which an uptight Caucasian character recovers his joie de vivre thanks to the efforts of a vibrant black person, and nor, despite the echoes of A Taste of Cherry, is this a simple homage to Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami. There’s nothing flashy about Bahrani’s less-is-more approach: he creates an evocative sense of place, and respects the fact that the actions of both William and Solo retain an element of mystery. Best of all, the ending in the fog-shrouded great outdoors transcends ‘realism’, calmly accepting life, death and nature’s glory.
(15) 91min. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 30 Oct.